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Where The Hot Springs Flow (Azula) - shoutoutout

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December 28th, 2011


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03:54 pm - Where The Hot Springs Flow (Azula)
Title: Where The Hot Springs Flow
Author: shoutoutout
Pairing/Character: Azula
Rating: PG
Summary: Azula after the finale. Title from Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin
Word Count: 1562
Spoilers: Finale
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender or the characters, no copyright infringement is intended



It was wonderful, is what she decides as she sinks towards the ground. Limbs heavy, their sedatives work and she thinks, it was wonderful.

To see the sky like that, to actually feel the heat on her skin, in her skin, one hundred fold was, it was -- she would love the world to be like that all the time. She could make it that way, she determines, she could move the world closer to the sun somehow so that there were no clouds, no weak blues in the mornings, just fire, fire, fire.

Her mind is working differently because colors are blending into something altogether unreal. Looking up, the doctor's faces are in slow motion and she spots the waterbender across the courtyard and remembers the chains around her wrists. Azula wants to spit flames into her blue eyes but all she can think before the sky turns black is, it was wonderful.

--

It's like withdrawal, she hears whispered around her, it's like she's going through withdrawal.

Her sheets are soaked. When she first wakes up, she thinks it's because of the waterbender's attack, that her hair is still dripping wet from being frozen and chained. It's when her teeth chatter that it hits her that the comet passed two days ago and it's all just her sweat.

Nurses are milling about her bedside, pressing cold cloths to her forehead, and she swats them away. Someone gasps and it's apparent that Azula has hit too hard when one of them crumples to floor, limp like a rag doll, but there's no remorse because can't they tell that she's freezing?

She misses the power and it's not fair, not fair at all that the comet only passes every hundred years because to have just a taste has left her aching, pleading for more. If it's withdrawal then so be it. She won't apologize for experiencing something fiercely unparalleled and liking it.

She cries for another blanket but all she gets are two orderlies chaining her to the bed.

--

Azula finally stops shivering sometime in the middle of the night. It doesn't make anything better.

--

She hates them, is the conclusion she comes to when she sees their ugly faces from across her hospital room. Mai, Ty Lee, and Zuko. She must hate them because they're looking at her with varying degrees of pity and contempt that it's -- she hates them, only it's just an idea because there isn't actually any feeling at all.

They think she's numb, probably because she won't meet their gaze, hasn't even moved at all, and they're so vain that it makes her sick, so self-absorbed to think that they even play a part in her life anymore, that she's not moving because they're here, that she's numb because of them. Her stomach is fine but she must feel sick.

"Azula, it's us," Ty Lee tries, like Azula's all of a sudden as dumb as the circus freak.

She rolls onto her other side, facing the wall, and Azula hates them, she really does, even if there's nothing there.

They shuffle off and when the door closes there are tears on her cheeks. It's the first thing she's felt since they walked in the room.

--

When she thinks about what must be happening outside the walls of her room she wants to howl her rage. Zuko and his softness for the Avatar. Her father. It's too much, it makes her see flashes of white against her eyelids, and when she does howl her lips crack and bleed and her voice is rough in the air.

--

She turns fifteen years old one afternoon. Azula knows this because one of the nurses wishes her a pitiful happy birthday as she spoon feeds her lunch.

This day, on the year of her birth, had been the summer solstice. She remembers this fact, remembers she's a prodigy, when she grabs the spoon and begins feeding herself.

She shouldn't feel proud, pride is for throne rooms and war victories, but she can at least allow herself to feel something like her old self.

--

It takes weeks but she's been deemed fit to see a doctor for a therapy session.

"I would destroy a thousand innocent lives to reverse what has happened," is her answer to a question she's already forgotten. She imagines the notes the doctor scribbles, progress nonexistent, and her laughter as they drag her away makes it feel like she's gargling her heart, sharp and throaty and loud.

--

She hears them talking outside of her room one morning.

"I don't know, Zuko, it was different with Firelord Ozai. He was a threat at the time and it was the only way."

"You don't think she's still a threat?"

"I -- it wouldn't feel right. To go in there when she hasn't even used her bending in months? We still have options."

"She's just lost her inner fire, that's all. I lost mine and found it almost immediately. She'll bend again, and when she does, it won't be because she's repented."

A pause.

"I can't do it, Zuko. I won't take away her firebending."

"And when she gets it back?"

"Well, when she gets it back it'll mean she's getting better."

"Let's hope so."

The Avatar's smile when he enters for a visit almost makes her vomit.

--

They ask about her mother, even when she's talking about her single-handed siege of Ba Sing Se; it's all they ever ask about.

"And how do you think your mother would've felt about that, Azula, seeing you on the Earth King's throne?"

If there's one thing she hates the most about being stuck in the hospital, about being forced to see doctors and being watched constantly, is talking about her mother. It makes her eye twitch and her back pull in ways that remind her that she isn't in control anymore, that sometimes her body works in ways that she doesn't want it to, that she cries even when she doesn't mean to.

She always leaves these sessions in a state of something. Sometimes she's so furious that it takes four men to bring her back to her cell and sometimes she's so wracked with sobs that two nurses have to shower her with meaningless condolences until she's solid enough to stand up.

Her brother isn't kind. If the rest of the world knew, if they saw what he was doing to her --

It's all they ever ask about and it's the worst sort of torture.

--

Zuko comes to visit.

"I brought you something," he says, placing a small box on her bedside table.

She has been meditating, staring at the wall with her back to the Fire Lord. He has interrupted.

"You could talk to me, you know, I'm your brother. You must have something to say!" His frustration is years old. The anger in his voice sparks her interest and she smiles; he's mad.

Her breath quickens but she speaks slowly, calmly.

"Don't get so upset, Zuko. Tsk, tsk. That temper of yours. So much like your father's."

It's the first she's said to him in two years and the words drip with poison.

"He's a floor below me, isn't he? I hear him scream at night, you know. I hear his nightmares, Zuko." She stands and slinks toward him. He's different, older than she remembers. Royal. Worn. "Such a good son you are."

The flash of fear in his eyes is like the sunshine on her skin. It flushes her chest warm. She can breathe.

"Happy birthday," he says through gritted teeth.

She drinks it in.

"Thanks, brother."

--

She opens the box after he leaves. A ragged piece of paper. A picture of them at the beach: Zuko, Azula, and their mother, playing by the water. She grips it tight and suddenly there's no air in her room anymore. Azula's chest heaves.

She is sixteen years old.

--

"Can I ask you something, doctor?"

He doesn't respond but lifts his eyes cautiously from his notes.

She licks her lips, readying. "How will you feel when I escape? Will you be disappointed, shamed? What will your wife say when she learns of your failure?"

He's silent. Azula can feel his chest grow hot. She turns to him, dragging the legs of the chair until she's facing him fully, the shackles on her wrists clanging loudly with every move. "What about when I burn down your house? How will she feel then?"

Her laughter cuts through the prison and down the halls. Like a siren song, she thinks, like a call, vicious.

Her voice is hoarse by the time the orderlies arrive, ushering the doctor from his office.

They slam her face into the cold metal floor and her nose spurts blood but she feels wonderful, she decides, she feels wonderful.

--

That night Azula stands in her cell, bare feet cold on the metal floor. Her eyes closed. There, at the core, she feels it. Her heart jumps with electricity(!) That's it she thinks, the roll of lava, the twist of magma, the planet's core always moving, always flowing, its violent nature.

She scratches her cheek, the dried blood flaking off, and feels her fingertips burning white-hot. A small flame dances in her palm.

In the morning Azula will feel the sun on her skin again, hotter than she could possibly imagine.


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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:gigerisgod
Date:December 29th, 2011 12:38 am (UTC)
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your Azula is visceral, unrepentant and wicked, which is just as she should be. This is one of the best post-Comet Azula stories I've read yet. the idea of her escaping like this is really quite frightening.

i love the idea of her withdrawal from the Comet. i always had the theory that the most prodigal benders, like Azula and Ozai were more deeply affected by the Comet's approach than other fire benders, i.e. the closer it came, the more bizarre their behavior and Azula being so young literally went insane from its power.

great story!
[User Picture]
From:shoutoutout
Date:December 29th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you! I actually wrote this right after the finale and completely forgot about it until now haha. Glad you enjoyed.
[User Picture]
From:ljlee
Date:December 29th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
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Amazing! Azula's viciousness is so spot on and chilling. The inside of her head is disturbing and vicious, as it should be.
[User Picture]
From:ferricent
Date:December 29th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
This is fantastic, and everything in this---the comet, Azula, and the flimsy walls of her world---works toward horror in the best way.
[User Picture]
From:star0cean
Date:May 12th, 2012 06:21 am (UTC)
(Link)
This was absolutely chilling and a great interpretation of a post-series finale Azula. She was one of my favorite characters and I honestly felt my heart break for her when she was sent away. This fic gives her redemption, frightening and fierce, just like Azula!

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